Transitioning to the energy transition

Oct 30, 2023 | potash news

The hydrogen revolution begins underground
By Sam Voegeli

Picture a future where clean and sustainable energy isn’t just a goal but a dream realized. A future that runs on a limitless source: hydrogen. This reality is closer than you think—and it begins underground.

Climate change concerns and the quest for cleaner alternatives have propelled hydrogen into the international spotlight. Hydrogen’s appeal is simple: it’s a versatile energy source that produces zero carbon emissions when spent. By 2050, hydrogen-based fuels are projected to account for 13 per cent of the global energy demand. For hydrogen to reach its full potential, however, successful storage solutions are needed.

Currently, the most cost-effective, safe, and proven method for storing bulk-scale hydrogen is underground storage caverns developed within evaporite formations, such as salt and potash. Fortunately, the potash industry is situated to take advantage of the unique convergence of hydrogen energy with underground salt and potash storage resources. Potash caverns have served industrial purposes for numerous years, but now they could hold the key to a sustainable energy future—particularly for facilities that use solution mining to extract potash. Unused depleted potash wells can potentially be converted into underground hydrogen storage with minimal cost and in a shorter time than greenfield development.

Investing in hydrogen storage infrastructure gives you a competitive advantage in the rapidly growing energy landscape, where an increasing demand for hydrogen services will eventually span various industries, including long-distance transportation, infrastructure, and power generation. Forward-thinking potash companies can now position themselves as leaders in the energy transition by aligning their operations with global sustainability objectives.

But how do you get there? Converting your potash cavern to underground hydrogen storage requires a unique, combined understanding of both potash production and hydrogen storage. RESPEC has both. We have devoted more than 50 years to the underground industry, using custom in-house software to design, optimize, and ensure safe and economical hydrogen storage facilities.

RESPEC’s process is seamless. We conduct thorough prefeasibility studies to determine the potential for underground hydrogen storage. RESPEC can also develop a preliminary design and cost estimate based on the existing geologic information from the potash facility to strengthen confidence in the economics of hydrogen storage. We then use our in-house rock mechanics laboratory and field exploration program to better understand the geologic behaviour and constraints of converting the caverns.

Transforming potash caverns into hydrogen storage reservoirs contributes to carbon reduction; helps reach Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals; and champions an environmentally sustainable future. This endeavour is a strategic investment that not only boosts long-term profitability, but also meets the surging demand for clean energy. With RESPEC supporting you through the process, you can position yourself as a leader who shapes a cleaner world.